04 Dec 7 Secrets to a Great CoWorking Space – Secret 2
Secret 2. Members Agreements should reflect the culture you are creating
Welcome to the second instalment of the “7 secrets to a great co working space” series. This week we explore the wonderful world of people. Specifically, those who will be coming to your space on a daily basis, or not depending on the membership type you offer. Members are the lifeblood of a co working space. They set the tone, the culture and the “vibe”. Your agreements must also do this, that is, reflect the culture you want to create in the tone and language of the agreement, but also protect you and the member interactions themselves.
Critical to your operation is not in the neatly spelled out rules, or perfect signage. It’s the people, and how you foster positive behaviour. High employee or member turnover is bad for community, long term business and your cashflow. Members need familiar faces to thrive. It’s why they have come to you in the first place.
So, let’s start with getting the ‘tone’ right. Before you start documenting the legal relationship, take a step back and think how people actually work. Understanding that there are “informal rules” that groups of people develop when working together. That’s what defines your culture. What you want to do is gently foster the positive behaviours, and discourage the negative ones which led to bullying and harassment, with possible legal consequences. In practice this is challenging to get right, but we’ve put together some tips which may help.
The Informal Rules – Behaviour & habits dictate culture
- Ensure everyone understands there is a Code of Conduct or Etiquitte Guide
- Ensure there is a process to deal with breaches of the Code (You could create your own Co Working Court!)
- Help members enforce the Code of Conduct with their guests who enter the space.
- Have a process for dealing with Visits by High Profile guests.
- Manage expectations around everything eg Tragic Events
- Babies, children, dogs….what is your policy?
- Always take steps to ensure members are cared for and are safe.
- Contagious diseases – remind people to not come in.
- Create regular communication channels/consultation e.g. Town Hall, Member Council and online feedback loops.
- Have an attitude for gratitude – appreciation and value creation are critical cornerstones and sometimes we need training in this!
Having established some processes and procedures to encourage a positive culture, you can then look at what you need to cover in terms of a working legal relationship. Remember no matter what, the language of your formal agreements must reflect the tone of your culture to get the best results.
The Member’s Agreement
Key terms of your Member’s Agreement should include:
- Legal Relationship: Your key legal relationship is one of a licence, not a sublease. This means that you can have key termination or exit provisions after a certain period. You can also have roll over provisions with notice to extend the term.
- Member warranties: These should include members having their own insurance, work cover or other key company insurances to cover their own employees and company. In addition you need to ensure your members have their own warranties with regard to the conduct of their employees and that they will cover any breaches by them.
- Confidentiality: The casual and open nature of co working can lead to confidential material being exposed, either physically or even verbally via phone calls. All members need to understand their obligations to other members confidentiality.
- Death or incapacity: This is something not often thought about – what happens if a member dies, who can take over the contract legally ?
- Payment terms: This is where you need certainty and need to spell out the consequences of payment failures. Consider a security deposit to help out in unforeseen situations.
- Security: This is critical make sure you have key provisions notifying members of their obligations and what they are liable for.
- HR policies: Strictly speaking you are not responsible for the member’s employees, but its a good idea to give your members training and seminars on the topics that involve working with people.
- Exiting: Clearly spell out your circumstances to terminate e.g. theft, harassment or damage.
- Members Code of Conduct: Attach this to the agreement also
- Publicity/promotion: Make sure you include provisions for filming/photography of members, as it will be frequent.
You will likely need to spend some time refining your informal rules and your legal agreements (the rules), so make sure you consult with a legal adviser to get both right. They will evolve over time as you grow, and your membership base changes. For example, you may start with individuals or sole operators initially in the space, and then find that companies are moving in, which have different cultural need and different styles of agreement.
That’s where quality regular training comes in. This can be something you offer your members, and is a great way to keep connecting with them to keep the vibrant community you’ve created in a constant state of learning. That’s ultimately what attracts people to coming back and growing their business with yours.
By Legal Counsel Helen Allard. Clearpoint Ed. Anna Reeves.
Got anything to add or need a co working question answered ? Connect with firstname.lastname@example.org